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As I sit to write my regular ‘Coming up this week’ blog it is not as simple as looking in my calendar and preparing myself for what lies ahead.

Last week was a complete whirlwind – three speaking engagements, two entrepreneurial workshops and one EY entrepreneur of the year judging… which were in addition to my usual meetings and appointments. I thrive on being this busy… however, I probably could not maintain last weeks frenetic speed for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful for weekends with family.

This week may or may not pan out how I expected. I am supposed to be in Perth in the back end of the week. I have a feeling of deja-vu.

I was working for Ansett during the pilots dispute of 1989 (which does seem so very long ago). I remember when the pilots first chose to strike (some weeks before they ultimately resigned on mass) – each day I would go to work and wonder what would happen. It was very different back then. Firstly the dispute was industry wide and the result was Australia had NO aviation industry for about nine months. (At least the other airlines are still flying.)

As I sit here and wonder what my next week will be like – I remember the feeling of “surely this will only be a few days… surely someone will see sense”.

I know Alan Joyce personally; in fact we were at Ansett together during the pilots dispute of 1989. He more than anyone knows what this means to both Qantas; as an institution and to the Australian travelling public.

Qantas’ rivals do not have the same militant unions to contend with. As an entrepreneur with a clear vision I cannot imagine how hard it must be to deliver upon the customer experience when all parties are not aligned. I have had the privilege of working with Qantas over many years with its eXcel people recognition program, as well as being a ‘peoples choice panelist’. I have experienced first hand the Qantas leaders commitment to great service through recognizing their people.

But the playing field is not level… Qantas is responsible for delivering shareholder value and as such must be competitive.  The very tragic thing is – I had believed that we as a business community had moved into a new world where all employees would align to the vision of achieving something great. It appears that nothing has changed in 20 years since I left the aviation industry out of frustration with archaic business practices.

(I had once presented to Ansett management a piece of work that had taken me months to complete – management pointed out that to achieve the service enhancement they would have to speak to 11 unions. My project was dismissed with the statement “you go and worry your pretty little head about something else.” – I was devastated at the time because I could not understand in my youthful exuberance why all employees would not be as passionate as I was about the customer experience.

I remember that very scary feeling of going to work every day ‘hoping’ that the pilots would fly again – and they never did. Surely we learned something 20 years ago.

There is no doubt that aviation must go through wholesale restructure – and that the Qantas board has known this for a long time – and now the showdown has commenced.

As a result of course – I am back to where I was 20 years ago – wondering what I will be doing this week – and ‘hoping’ the plan comes together quickly

Naomi Simson awards
Qantas eXcel Peoples Choice Award winners 2011

Reader Interactions


  1. Hi Naomi, I can certainly see that the aviation industry is undergoing a fundamental change. Unfortunately for those of us employeed in the industry the changes are likely to result in more and more engineering work being done in Asia. Ideally all such work would be done on Qantas aircraft in Australia but the travelling public will probably not continue to pay higher fares on Qantas for this to be possible. Airlines and their employees must adapt or the company will not survive.

    However this current tactic is very difficult to understand. Every company should know that taking care of the customer is the only thing that really matters and to treat the customer with such cavalier disregard is awful. It’s as if Alan Joyce believes that Qantas is doomed and he needs to speed up its demise. Even if he wins the damage he will do will take years to repair.

  2. Hi Shaun, There is not doubt that this a complex issue with many sides to the story – effecting very many people in many different ways. The reality is that many Australian businesses outsource or ‘offshore’ all sorts of work – and websites like make this very simple. From one off projects to ongoing work. The world has become smaller, we live in a global economy – if something happens on one side of the planet it effects people else where. Business models are changing too. This sort of fundamental restructure – which is impacting many industries (retail too is going through dramatic change – as people move to purchasing online) – is never easy.

  3. Hi Shaun,

    I agree that Alan Joyce has damaged the Qantas brand and the devastation caused to travel plans by grounding the entire fleet so yes we would think he didn’t really care about the customer experience.

    However, what we should understand here is survival of the Qantas brand, Alan Joyce, he wouldn’t have had any other choice. Business is all about the numbers : profit maximization, in some people especially if you are a hired CEO, they really have to find out a strategy to survive in financial wise. Alan Joyce have used the best strategy for the short term impact. Causing the minimum profit losses as possible by choosing the weekends as the grounding days, but compensating customers and lockout announcement from Monday caused of an urgent response from Fair Work of Australia without costing them cause it was filed by the government ( if qantas filed union strikes directly to FWA it would have cost them $15 million per day). The financial impact of all of this was cheaper than the intermittent strikes caused by unions on and on. Eventually, the company will not survive if the strikes keep going caused by unreasonable greed from unions. 

    I know, he damaged the brand in people’s memory and many people wouldn’t have agreed or understood his decision as it was very extreme. 
    However, the thing is our memories very shallow and we forget the things as long as it didn’t really damaged your life personally. And yes Qantas is an amazingly resilient brand as he believes and being partially monopoly gave them a power already.

    However, Alan Joyce should look further into their people. Employees. Somethings very wrong in there. Their customer services are poor and their attitude of working process is predominantly bad or rude and of course it’s differ by workers who providing service, I’m saying as generally what I felt as I have no choice to fly but Qantas lol.

    Alan Joyce need to fix the fundamental problems in the company. Hope he find it and solve it otherwise, he might have to preparer second grounding of Qantas.

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